December 18, 2018
Latin Americans Don’t Hate Trump Says Rising Political Star

By Joseph Hammond

In the Age of Trump, even foreign leaders are defined by their relationship with the American president. Those who oppose Trump – and they are legion, especially in Europe – tend to get the lion’s share of usually admiring coverage.

Such was the case when Bolivian President Evo Morales received wide attention after he lashed out at Trump’s immigration policies and commitment to democracy around the globe in September when Trump was chairing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Trump responded diplomatically, saying “Thank you, Mr. President” before turning the floor over to Peru.

The irony – or hypocrisy – is that Morales is now threatening democracy in his country by seeking a way to extend his 13 year rule in violation of the Bolivian constitution.

While Morales of Bolivia and President Maduro of Venezuela presume to speak for all of Latin America there is another emerging voice. Her name is Maria Lourders Landivar. And she admires many things about Trump. A fierce opponent of President Morales, her goal is to ensure that Bolivia doesn’t end up in a shambles like Venezuela. At 35, she is the youngest senator in Bolivia’s main opposition party – the Democratas

A tireless defender of democracy. In September she stepped down as vice-president of the International Young Democrat Union, a global coalition of center-right and liberal parties from 81 countries, to better focus on Bolivian politics. As a fellow of the Atlantic Council of the United States and in her democracy advocacy work she is a frequent visitor to Washington D.C.

Prior to entering electoral politics she worked in Bolivia’s Office of International Relations and as an adviser in the Secretary of Institutional Coordination of the Government of Santa Cruz between 2008 and 2014.

She was selected as an emerging leader of the Atlantic Dialogue in Marrakech, Morocco in 2018 – the premiere policy forum for the discussions of transatlantic politics linking the Americas, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

Q: What do Bolivians and other Latin Americans think of President Trump in your opinion?

A: Actually, the majority, they don’t hate Trump. … It’s been 14 year since we had a U.S. President who would say the dictator of Venezuela is a dictator – Obama didn’t do that. Trump is saying to Latin America and the world that violations of the rule of law and their respective constitutions must be stopped. We didn’t get that with Obama. Trump doesn’t have the manners that many leaders have, but he is saying the things we need the free world to say to confront authoritarianism in Latin America.

Q: President Morales has led Bolivia for 13 years. He was hailed when first elected as the first president of indigenous descent though he has increasingly sought to centralize power around himself. What is the status of democracy in Bolivia?

A: We can’t define the status of democracy based on one fact but it is worth pointing out that Evo Morales has effectively changed the constitution to allow himself to be president again. Morales suffered a political defeat for the first time in 2016 with a failed referendum. The voters held he could not seek the presidency again in violation of the constitution. Yet, earlier this December an electoral court ruled that term limits were a violation of his human rights. That is an incredible argument – we no longer live under the rule of law in Bolivia. The President has no shame. Morales has sought to change laws at a whim. When a lawyer once told him he couldn’t do something he said “Well then change the law – what did you study?”

Q: Yes, I traveled to Bolivia early in Morales’s rule and saw some of the early protests against him first hand. At the time Morales was part of a rising wave of leftist leaders such as Hugo Chavez…

A: Yes, and Morales is the one leader in Latin America who still defends Maduro and doesn’t call him a dictator when other left-wing socialists in Latin America such as the president of Uruguay do. But, today we see a new trend.

Q: We’ve recently seen the election of a left-wing populist in Mexico with Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the election of a right-wing populist, in Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsanaro. What direction do you see politics moving in the region?

A: I think Latin American is waking up in Chile, Peru and Colombia and Peru votes have chosen candidates who respect democracy and the rule of law. We will see soon if that trend continues in the upcoming elections in Uruguay and El Salvador. They don’t have a government now that believes in democracy. It’s weird to see what happened in Mexico. Apparently they didn’t’ learn from what happened to us [ in Bolivia] or by other leftists regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua where the rule of law has been destroyed.

Q: What about Brazil, where Jair Bolsanaro has just won a stunning victory and often compared to Trump by the international media?

A: I’m not going to say he is amazing but, I can tell you want I think his election means. His election reflects the decision of the Brazilian people and voters that they will support those who will stand up to the corruption of the traditional elites in Brazil. That’s why he was elected not because of his outlandish statements.

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